As coronavirus continues its global surge, researchers in the US have developed an experimental vaccine, and volunteers are already receiving their shots, this per the Associated Press (AP) Health and Science Department. Details about the COVID-19 Vaccine Trial continue to unfold.
The first volunteer received a test vaccine on Monday from scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle. A Phase I trial is meant to establish that the vaccine is safe and induces a desired response from participants’ immune systems. Now, they wait anxiously, hoping the first-stage vaccine study will yield results and effectively stop the virus that exploded from China and spanned the globe in record time.
“We’re team coronavirus now,” Kaiser Permanente study leader Dr. Lisa Jackson said. “Everyone wants to do what they can in this emergency.”
The trial is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and runs out of Kaiser Permanente.
“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with [the novel coronavirus] is an urgent public health priority,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Health (NIH) said in a statement on Monday. “This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal.”
During Phase 1, 45 volunteers will receive two doses, a month apart.
Proving that the vaccine is effective in preventing COVID-19 infection, however, will require follow-up studies. Even if the research goes well, a vaccine wouldn’t be available for widespread use for 12 to 18 months, Fauci said.
While far from ready to distribute on a mass scale, the vaccine’s development occurred at a much faster pace than such vaccines, which are usually estimated to take up 18 months to ready. Traditionally, a virus would be grown in a lab, and shots would be prepared from a dead or weakened version. In this instance, sections of the virus’ genetic code were copied to create a dummy spike protein.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “The body will become a mini-factory, producing some harmless spike protein. When the immune system spots the foreign protein, it will make antibodies to attack — and be primed to react quickly if the person later encounters the real virus.”
The Seattle experiment got underway days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. Originating in China back in January, the coronavirus’ rapid global spread has resulted in 169,000 infected and more than 6,500 dead worldwide.